How we shop, how we work out, how we receive medical care – you name the sector and odds are good that it underwent some major transformations during 2020. That being said, many of the most dramatic changes were less the result of the COVID-19 pandemic than accelerated by it, and this is particularly true in the world of connected tech. Companies didn’t invent entirely new processes to remedy pandemic-related service gaps, but hurried in-progress solutions to market. And, in so doing, they also transformed our lives at home and out in the world.
What types of new technology have been particularly major players in our lives during 2020? At the heart of it all were a variety of Augmented Reality (AR) products, like virtual dressing rooms and Face AR for video conferencing, as well as well as AI-based fitness tools like Mirror, a connected fitness device acquired by Lululemon Athletica last year. But as critical as such technology appears to be to our new lifestyle ecosystem, such elements represent significant challenges, especially for the manufacturing sector.
Automated Manufacturing Meets Glass
Automation has been central to the manufacturing sector for years and it’s long been recognized that the only way the industry can keep up with demand today is by continuing to build on industrial automation. When it comes to glass, though, that’s easier said than done. After all, in premise, glass’s value comes largely from the fact that it’s clear. That’s not a problem for human workers who can still perceive its bounds and work with it in industrial settings, but it can present real challenges to robotic vision systems and create barriers to mass manufacturing new technologies.
In typical manufacturing settings, robotic vision programs use reflected light to scan materials and identify key points, allowing for precision work with minimal human involvement. When this same vision is turned on glass or highly reflective metal, however, these vision systems can’t collect the necessary information; the glass or metal is essentially invisible. Observing this issue, there are now new manufacturers working to develop advanced robotic vision programs that use different systems, such as light filters and changing points of view, that can enable such systems to successfully work with glass or shiny metals.
What does such robotic vision look like in practice? Imagine that a business wants to install new glass storefronts that allows customers to interact with displays or browse without even setting foot inside the store. It’s a good idea, and one that shares many traits with other display trends that have been in the news for nearly a decade, but tricky to execute in practice. To create a transparent glass display that’s actually a functional LCD screen, manufacturers will need to be able to apply the same types of automated manufacturing technology that they use for computers, and that means using robotic vision that can see the glass its working on. It’s a tall order, but it’s also the reality of modern technology.
Fitness AIs Rise
Another area in which improved glass-detection will be key to manufacturing is in the growth of the connected fitness sector. Connected fitness has been all the rage since the launch of products like Fitbit, but that was just a starting point. Since then – and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in interest in home fitness – the market for connected fitness tech has exploded. In addition to Fitbit, there are now countless other fitness and health wearables, home fitness equipment like the Peloton bike and SoulCycle’s competitor bike, and the Mirror fitness system mentioned above. All this is to say that people want to work out at home and they need tools to do it.
The Mirror fitness system represents many of the challenges facing glass manufacturing today. Placed in your home, it acts precisely as the name implies – as a mirror – but turn the device on and it’s a mirror, a screen playing a class, and an AI-connected system offering workout modifications and tracking fitness goals. That’s some complicated engineering, and it raises questions about how the device, and other devices like it, is made.
Most of the high-tech mirror and glass products on the market function, at least to some degree, on proprietary technology, so a full glimpse behind the curtain isn’t possible. However, we can infer based on our understanding of robotic vision systems that these products rely on cutting edge technology. Unlike other AI-powered machine vision programs, the ability to detect objects isn’t enough. Instead, it needs to be able to detect items that are, in many ways, meant to avoid detection.
Windshields And Other Glass Innovations
Where else is new glass manufacturing technology in use or on the verge of emergence? There are a number of areas of interest, including smart windshields that could prevent distracted driving, AR smart glasses, which have proved their growth potential in recent years after the initial failure of Google Glass, and much more. All of that indicates high demand for more complex, precise glass manufacturing and processing tools, with invisible but overlaid sensor systems.
One product that may be especially influential in understanding connected technology engineering and manufacturing is the subsector of smart glass known as light control glass of LCG. This glass product has recently experienced an explosion of growth stemming from its use in construction.
LCG has been embraced by builders and property financiers who recognize the health benefits of access to sunlight. Instead of installing tinted glass in window-heavy buildings, then, they choose digitally modifiable glass; individual users can adjust their windows with the power of touch. Better manufacturing technology now allows these glass products to filter out specific light forms, include hazardous UV rays, or darken to mimic traditional privacy glass. Within its niche, this is what’s known as a dynamic material and its applications are extensive.
Now, a significant part of what makes glass so valuable in all of the above applications, as well as in our smart phones and tablets, is that it works well in conjunction with the types of plastic conductive materials commonly used together. Essentially, the plastic conductive film touches the glass and completes a circuit. Typically, that doesn’t work with an all-plastic system, though, which is why we all have to go around worrying that we’ll drop our cellphones and crack the screens. The glass is just too important.
What some new equipment manufacturers are now attempting to develop is a plastic alternative that can stand in for glass’s conductive properties, which would allow for touch-sensitive but durable and lightweight products. Essentially, the more products that rely on touchscreens, the more incentive there is to develop an affordable, plastic alternative. Glass may function well and feel high-end, but it’s expensive and often impractical and our connected environment demands innovation.
Smart Glass Goes Plastic
Among the many potential applications of plastic alternatives to conductive smart glass products include high wear and tear, including AR-based virtual dressing rooms, the high-tech reinvention of stores like Toys R Us, which now features numerous touchscreen stations, and many children’s products. Plastic alternatives are also ideal for outdoor applications like the National Parks, local hiking trails, and even amusement parks, where touchscreens are more likely to be subject to weather conditions and other activity. Durability is a common manufacturing priority across industries, so everything we learn about smart glass manufacturing should be quickly applied to plastic analogs.
Over the last decade, we have steadily made progress towards a moment when users expect everything to be touchscreen equipped, but that moment remains elusive. Still, we’re getting closer, and sturdier material options will bring us closer still. Other improvements in projected capacitive technology allow for faster response times from touchscreen tools, greater durability that prevents scratches and cracks from significantly impacting overall device function, and new anti-glare and anti-stiction technology for greater interactive ease.
Ultimately, transparent conduction technology is going to steadily move away from glass, but most innovations will likely still begin with glass manufacturing. Because of the many advantages that glass offers in terms of quality and conductive capacity and its preference as a material in high-end connected tech, glass is the obvious template. New practices and materials will develop from there.
Low-Cost Business Ideas for 2022
Successfully running your business in 2022 is not easy due to the new norms of people’s lives. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the consumption of goods and services. If opening an offline store or restaurant just a few years ago was a profitable idea, now their owners can incur heavy losses.
Since most startups in 2022 are going online, you need to think about starting your business on the Internet. If you decide to become an entrepreneur and have the opportunity to invest, but there is no modern idea, you can take advantage of the options that someone is already successfully developing.
What Business is Popular in 2022
Thanks to the Internet, anyone can become a business owner. A startup on online platforms is an excellent idea for those who like flexible working hours and complete control over their income. This option of earning money is more resistant to crises and outbreaks of pandemics.
According to Statista, in 2021, online shopping exceeded $4.2 trillion globally, and social media has become the backbone of many businesses looking to build brand awareness.
Before preparing to launch for a startup, consider the following factors:
- Expertise. An entrepreneur needs to learn new skills and knowledge about a niche for any successful startup.
- Investments.If you don’t have enough money to invest a significant amount in a project immediately, think about how to raise capital for your business (investors, crowdfunding, business angels, grants, etc.).
- Scaling. To attract new customers and profit, the company needs to grow and develop constantly. Consider a long-term scaling plan and remember the hassles that can happen while you work.
- Personal interests. Consider whether you will still be passionate about the business in the long run.
The cost of starting a business decreases every year, which is especially important for an online business; to start, it is enough to have a computer with an Internet connection. The most challenging part when developing ideas is the problem of choice. To be successful, you need to deal with products in strong demand. A business should be run by a person who enjoys doing it.
Dropshipping is one of the profitable business ideas if you want to make money remotely online. Unlike a regular online store, you don’t need products to run an e-commerce site specializing in dropshipping. Conforming with Torchbankz, the dropshipping industry is expected to reach a market valuation of $557.9 billion before 2025.
This business is considered very affordable because to work, you only need to launch your website and access the directories of wholesale suppliers such as AliDropship or SaleHoo.
All you have to do is partner with wholesalers and manufacturers to sell their products under your brand name. The buyer purchases on your website, informs the supplier company about it and sends the order to the client. The dropshipping scheme for an online store is straightforward:
- The seller selects products from the supplier’s catalog and uploads them to the trading platform (online store, landing page, marketplace).
- Adds a markup to the supplier’s price.
- Promotes products and finds a client.
- When a client places an order, the seller communicates this information to the supplier.
- The supplier packs the product and sends it to the customer.
To quickly become a leader in this industry, you need to stand out from the competition. Instead of a thousand different products, you can narrow your niche and specialize exclusively in one category: clothes for children, home decorations, or more.
Food Delivery to Offices
Food delivery is not a new but trendy business idea. Fundera says that the online food delivery industry has generated more than $26.5 billion in 2021. While large companies set high prices for dishes, newcomers have a chance to gain customer loyalty at affordable prices.
Since there are a lot of office workers and not everyone can afford to go to a cafe for lunch, you will quickly gain a loyal audience and strengthen your position in the market.
An aspiring entrepreneur does not need a lot of investment. You can cook the food right at home and use your car to deliver orders. An important thing to invest in is a website or an application to tell about your services and present all the menus.
To minimize your costs, before launching a full-fledged software, you can use an MVP, with which you will test the main functions of the app and attract the first customers. Thus, potential buyers can see the available dishes and order them online without calls. They can choose a specific time for which you need to deliver food and even leave a particular comment on the order.
Also, your customers will pay for services using the app, saving you from cash. By allowing feedback on the service in the software, the delivery owner also receives feedback from the person and builds a loyal audience. Your own application will help you tell the world about yourself and take a leading position among those who do not use digital technologies yet.
Opening your own online store is the most obvious idea for an online business. The following online stores can be called relevant in 2022:
- children’s goods;
- ecological and natural versions of everyday products;
- sporting goods;
- clothing and footwear;
- home textiles;
- boxes with surprises.
This startup idea is not as simple as it seems at first glance, but it will not require significant investments at the initial stage with a competent approach.
First, you need to decide on your niche. Purchase several copies of each item to understand what will be more in demand and what is better to remove from the catalog altogether.
Next, you need to study your target audience. For example, selling home furnishings to teenagers is useless. The older generation is unlikely to be interested in fashionable gadgets, and residents of the city will not appreciate goods for the garden. The main characteristics of potential buyers are gender, age, place of residence, and financial situation.
The critical step is the selection of suppliers. To avoid getting caught by scammers, try to find out more information about them and look at the goods live.
Implement enterprise resource planning software to customize and automate the process straight away. ERP will integrate and manage finance, order supply chains, user operations, reporting, manufacturing, and human resources. With this software, you and your employees will be able to plan deliveries and improve the quality of customer service. The use of digital technologies in business will help increase productivity and store all data in secure cloud storage.
Why Digitize Your Business in 2022
Without developing a digital transformation strategy, no modern business in 2022 can exist in the long term. Due to the pandemic, everyone observes a rapid acceleration of trends that previously gained popularity very slowly. Such resources allow you to save money, increase profits, and attract new customers.
The required minimum for any company now is a website and accounts in social networks. Brands looking to take one step closer to their customers can also develop a mobile app/chatbot and use other promotion channels.
A more thorough digital transformation involves working with clients and deep business processes: production, personnel management, and internal communications. To implement such a transformation, you need to carry out serious work, which can be based on Big data analysis, cloud and mobile services, and agile development.
Before embedding digital technology in your business, think about what exactly you and your customers need. You should not chase trends and use that software that cannot help optimize processes and establish communication with customers.
Image Credit: Karolina Grabowska; Pexels; Thank you!
5 Ways To Grow Your Business With Technology
“I’d like my business to remain stagnant.” No entrepreneur, owner, or CEO ever uttered those words. You can be sure none ever will, either. That’s because corporate growth is always an overarching goal for any organization. Growing your business comes with its challenges, of course, like figuring out which steps will make it easiest for you to scale and expand.
One thing’s clear: You need to develop a clear-cut growth strategy. And technology needs to play a huge part in that strategy. After all, we’re living in a primarily technological world. If you’re not making the most of the tech at your fingertips, you regularly miss opportunities to strengthen your brand’s position.
Where can you start? Below are a handful of ways that you can leverage technology to grow your business’s footprint. Try these recommendations, whether you’re a micro startup or a mid-size corporation headed toward a Fortune 500 future.
1. Automate repetitive manual processes.
Is it worth automating all the mindless to-dos in your business in order to grow? Yes, especially if you do the numbers.
McKinsey research studied the ordinary tasks of several occupations. They concluded that around 33% of the tasks of six out of 10 jobs could be automated. For example, let’s say your company is modestly sized at 50 workers. If your staffers work a traditional 40-hour week, 30 of them are frittering away 13 hours. In other words, you’re losing nearly 400 hours weekly to pay employees to handle repetitive duties.
To be sure, not all tasks can be automated. However, you owe it to yourself to find ones that can. For example, is your finance department team processing payroll or inputting invoices by hand? Then, invest in software to remove the tedium—and reduce the chance of human error.
Check out your sales and services processes next. Do your salespeople or support agents have to cut and paste information? Are they forced to switch between two or more programs that don’t communicate? Look for ways to integrate those systems to free up everyone’s valuable time so they can concentrate on growth-based responsibilities.
2. Strive to make customer first impressions stickier with tech tools
Tons of articles highlight the importance of growing your business by retaining customers. It’s true that retention tends to be less expensive than acquisition. Nevertheless, you can’t hold onto your customers until you get them in the door. So put a premium on delivering impeccable first impressions that urge people to stick around.
The right type of technology can assist you in wowing your best leads via an unforgettable customer experience. Take first-time logins, for instance. Okta reports that asking a visitor to set up an account turns off 37% of prospects. So what can you do to overcome this friction point? First, you can rely on social logins to streamline the process. From the customer’s viewpoint, being able to login via already-existing Facebook, Google, or credentials is effortless. From your company’s viewpoint, you can begin marketing to yet another buyer or potential buyer.
A strong CRM can be equally beneficial to moving leads into and down your sales funnel. Once you’ve captured prospects’ data through a social sign-in, personalize future communications like emails, texts, and DMs. Only two years ago, McKinsey found that 80% of retail buyers valued the personal touch. So whether you’re in retail or not, strive for individualization to keep new buyers coming back.
3. Bring a virtual assistant to your team.
You may not have the funds to hire live customer service representatives 24/7. That’s okay. Chatbots can give your organization the ability to offer visitors self-service, even during non-business hours. And they can do it for a fraction of what you’d pay a live agent.
Not sure you’re ready to put your faith in a chatbot? A New York Times article explains that today’s AI-fueled chatbots are only getting smarter. They’re also gaining widespread acceptance, with chatbot growth poised to hit around 15% in 2022. One Gartner executive even predicts that a genuinely conversational AI chatbot program is just around the corner.
Already, some chatbots are inching toward humanlike responses. A University of Florida experiment found that about a third of people could not tell a chatbot from a real person. Consequently, there’s little harm in exploring the wide world of chatbots for your company. Your chatbot doesn’t have to be perfect to be appreciated by customers with questions who want fast answers.
4. Investigate tech solutions to tap into your data.
Tremendous amounts of data flow into your company. Yet it would be impossible for you and your team to make sense of it all. Does that mean you have to give up on finding a way to unearth your data’s insights? Not at all. You just need a tech-based data mining solution.
You have plenty of choices regarding software that can analyze data and find trends. First, though, determine where your data exists. Is it in your CRM? Or a legacy piece of software? Once you know where to find your data, you can search for highly-rated data mining systems.
Be aware that some data mining programs have been developed with specific industries in mind. These can include healthcare, finance, e-commerce, or manufacturing. It never hurts to see if something’s already been created for your sector.
5. Invest in a branded mobile app.
Mobile app use continues to rise. By 2025, one Forbes writer notes that the app market will approach $1 trillion. So why, then, doesn’t your brand have an app of its own?
This is the question a lot of business leaders are asking themselves. Offering customers the chance to interact with your company through an app makes sense. Not only does it give them an immediate connection to your organization, but it simplifies the purchasing process. At the same time, it helps buyers feel that they’re getting special treatment as you deploy push notifications and exclusive offers.
How can you make the most of your app once it’s been developed? First, make sure your customers know it exists. Lots of brands have apps that get very few downloads. The issue isn’t necessarily the app itself. It’s that they don’t know the app is available. Therefore, be diligent and consistent about talking up your app to drive higher usage and conversions.
You’re not alone if you feel that growing your business isn’t happening as fast as you like. Most leaders wish that they could get to the next plateau faster. One method to add a little speed to the process is to lean into the technologies you’re not using yet. Then, with the right combination of tech tools, you should begin to see a positive difference in your numbers.
Image Credit: Artem Podrez; Pexels; Thank you!
The Developer’s Guide to Mobile Authentication
Mobile app developers must ensure that the mobile app is effortless while keeping internal information protected and secure. Complex or repeated authentications can be frustrating for your mobile app users.
This article discusses various means of simple and secure mobile authentication, ensuring frictionless UI and UX of mobile authentication screens and data security.
What is Mobile Authentication?
Mobile authentication is a security method to verify a user’s identity through mobile devices and mobile apps. It caters to one or more authentication methods to provide secure access to any particular app, resource, or service.
Let’s look at the various mobile authentication methods developers can utilize depending on their business use case.
Mobile Authentication Methods
Email-Password and Username-Password are common types of password-based authentication. While utilizing these methods, developers should consider setting secure and robust password policies in their authentication mechanism, such as:
- Mandatory use of symbols and numbers
- Restricting the use of common passwords
- Blocking the use of profile information in passwords
These measures ensure better quality passwords and prevent user accounts from brute force and dictionary password attacks.
Limitation: Passwords are hard to remember, and typing in passwords on a small mobile screen degrades the user experience. Hence, developers must use authentication that does not compromise the security postures yet provide an appropriate user experience.
Patterns and Digit-based Authentication
The user must set a pattern or a digit-based PIN (typically 4 or 6 digits). Developers can utilize this as an authentication factor for their mobile application, as this authentication method is faster and more comfortable than entering passwords on a mobile screen.
Limitation: Both patterns and 4 or 6 digits PINs are limited. Also, users tend to use simple patterns and PINs like L or S patterns and 1234, 987654, date of birth as their password.
Users use an OTP received via SMS or email to authenticate themself. Thus, users do not have to remember a password, pattern, or PIN to access their account. At the same time, developers don’t have to implement password-based security mechanisms.
Biometric authentication uses unique biological traits of users for mobile authentication. Some common examples of biometric authentication are fingerprint scanning, face unlocks, retina scans, and vocal cadence.
Developers can implement pre-coded libraries and modules to enable authentication through mobile components like the finger scanner, camera (for facial recognition), and microphone (for voice-based identification).
It acts as a single sign-on authentication mechanism. Developers can implement this in mobile apps to use users’ login tokens from other social networking sites to allow access to the app.
Also, with social login, developers don’t need to worry about storing passwords securely and managing the password recovery option. It helps the user sign in to the mobile app without creating a separate account from within the app, hence increasing the user experience (UX).
User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) in Mobile Authentication
Login and registration screens are a gateway to your mobile applications; if they are a hassle, the user might not bother using the application. Thus, developers should pay a lot of attention to these screens regarding user experience and usage.
Here are some quick tips for mobile authentication screens:
- Simple Registration Process: Lengthy registration forms are a big no-no. Brainstorm essential information for creating an account via mobile application and only include those fields.
- External or Social Login: Allow users to log in via external or social accounts. This way, users don’t have to remember another password or credentials for your app.
- Facilitate Resetting: Include forget password on the login screen for good visibility and reach if the app provides password-based login. Also, setting the new password should be seamless and fast.
- Keep Users Logged In: Not logging out users on app close is helpful in a good experience. However, this depends on the type of app you offer. Developers should include MFA for better security if the app stores sensitive information or skip the stay logged-in feature altogether.
- Meaningful Error Messages: Errors and how they are handled directly impact user experience. Thus, developers should keep error messages meaningful and clearly state what went wrong and how to fix it.
Tip: Customize the mobile app keyboard for the type of input field. For example – display a numeric keyboard when asking for a PIN and include @ button when asking for an email address.
Considering the above points would result in a great and secure user experience for your mobile app users. However, if you feel executing these guidelines would take ample time, be informed that CIAM solutions are available in the market to handle all these requirements for you.